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Ubin's nature beach gets reprieve
by Lydia Lim
Straits Times, 21 Dec 01

Nature lovers are celebrating the Government's decision to defer the reclamation of Tanjung Chek Jawa, thought to be Singapore's last mud flat and home to several rare marine creatures.

It is located at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin and is a natural beach on which marine life such as the horseshoe crab and sand dollar, a disc-shaped member of the starfish family, live. The stretch is also rich in beds of sea grasses.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of National Development said: 'The decision to defer the reclamation works at Chek Jawa comes after MND has carefully considered all public submissions and also following extensive consultations among various government agencies including the Urban.Redevelopment Authority, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Housing and Development Board."

"MND has also consulted with marine life experts ftom the National University of Singapore and other institutions and societies."

Reclamation work was originally slated to start in a few days' time.

Since the area first came to public attention at a dialogue to discuss land use, held earlier this year, non-government organisations and individuals have written to the ministry and The Straits' Times Forum Page urging a rethink of the reclamation plans.
Approved in 1992, they were to create land to be used eventually for military training.

Yesterday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan also met representatives of nature groups and interested members of the public to discuss how best to protect the marine life at Chek Jawa.

Nature Society president Geh Min was overwhelmed by the good news and praised the Government for saving a "priceless legacy that all generations of Singaporeans will benefit from immeasurably".

"A place like Chek Jawa is continually re-inventing itself. Every time I go there, it is different... I have seen young children left on their own there and they were just fascinated," she said.

In recent months, many families have flocked to the beach for what they thought would be their last glimpse of it.

The MND also advised the public against rushing down to view Chek Jawa and sought their cooperation to "protect the habitats and to ensure the long-term enjoyment of this natural heritage". NParks would be putting in place a system to manage the flow of visitors at low tide, the best time to visit the beach, it said. This would include advising visitors to stick to designated paths and not to collect any plants or animals.

Marine biologist Chou Loke Ming, of the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences, said it was important to protect the area's biodiversity.

"The area has a number of different habitats...including sandflats and sea grass patches, so it is unique," he said.
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